by Karen Russell
2010 Alfred F. Knopf
The main reason I picked up "Swamplandia" is that Stephen King said in an early review; "Brilliant, funny, original . . . This book will not leave my mind.” Then the book came out and the other reviews were not as glowing, so it sat on my To Be Read shelf for several months. I am so glad that I finally got around to it. This is another fabulous debut.
"Swamplandia" is the story of thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree and her journey to save her family and their island home/gator-wrestling theme park. After her mother dies and a new big money theme park opens nearby, the family struggles to keep Swamplandia going. Ava's father leaves temporarily for another job, her brother runs off to work for the other park, and her sister disappears into the swamp with her ghostly boyfriend. Ava meets a local who tells her he will help her find her sister and they set off into the swamp. Ava is a wonderful character and you really root for things to work out for her, but there seems to be little chance of that happening. The story takes a very dark twist deep into the book that I wasn't expecting, but that helped explain things that up to that point had not really rung true to me. It is not an easy book to read. but it is definitely rewarding if you do.